Ten people were arrested overnight Saturday in Jerusalem as ultra-Orthodox demonstrators clashed with police during protests against localized lockdowns of neighborhoods aimed at curbing a spread of the coronavirus.
Hundreds of protesters blocked the intersection of Yirmiyahu and Shamgar streets, and threw stones, eggs and other objects at officers who were responding to the situation, the Israel Police said in a statement.
The arrests were made for disturbing the peace, police said.
Some of the protesters tore down police barricades that had been set up to enforce the lockdowns on the neighborhoods that were closed due to high infection rates, the statement said.
Three Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods — Romema, Kiryat Belz and Kiryat Sanz — were among neighborhoods in five towns and cities that were placed under lockdown at 1 p.m. on Friday, a day after cabinet ministers approved the measure as the number of new cases in Israel continued to surge. Travel in and out of the neighborhoods was restricted, as was the operation of businesses within closed-off areas.
Aside from the neighborhoods in the capital, parts of Beit Shemesh, Lod, Ramle and Kiryat Malachi were declared “restricted zones” for seven days. The restrictions were set to be lifted at 8 a.m. on July 17.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion has criticized the lockdown order in his city, claiming it would cause “mass infections.”
The protests in Jerusalem came as at least 19 people were arrested following a mass demonstration by thousands of people in Tel Aviv against the government’s handling of the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. After the main protest in the city’s Rabin Square, hundreds blocked intersections in the surrounding streets and clashed with police.
With the health crisis intensifying, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a tide of anger and criticism over the government’s handling of its economic fallout, with polls indicating growing disapproval of his stewardship of the economy.
On Friday, a lawmaker called on the two ultra-Orthodox parties to temporarily quit the government to protest what he called “selective” targeting of religious neighborhoods for coronavirus lockdowns.
“I call on the Haredi ministers to temporarily quit the government until they remove the selective closures from Haredi neighborhoods,” said Yisrael Eichler, a lawmaker with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.
It was not immediately clear how ministers could quit on a temporary basis. The ultra-Orthodox parties have been Netanyahu’s most loyal allies.
Cabinet ministers, including from UTJ and Shas, approved the measure Thursday.
The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy. Since then there has been a growing spike in virus infections.
The Health Ministry reported 1,198 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Saturday evening, and three additional fatalities, bringing Israel’s overall death toll as a result of the pandemic to 354.
There were 134 people in serious condition as a result of the COVID-19 disease, with 49 requiring mechanical ventilation. Another 102 people were listed in moderate condition with the rest having mild or no symptoms.
The current rate of increase in weekly infections in Israel is one of the highest in the world, according to a chart published last week by the Health Ministry.